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Saturday, August 15, 2020

Robert E. Lee's Citizenship

In the recent discussion of Confederate monuments, many have pointed out that these tributes came long after the Civil War as expressions of white supremacy. Some of these came in the 1890s, some in the 1920s, and some in the 1950s. There is at least one big example, though, that came in the 1970s, which is later than one might expect.

Robert E. Lee was not granted an exemption from Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment during his lifetime. (He died in 1870). In 1975, though, Congress passed a symbolic Joint Resolution declaring that Section Three no longer applied to Lee. In signing the resolution, which was passed by the necessary two-thirds vote in Congress, President Ford said the following:

"General Lee's character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride."

Well, maybe not every American.

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on August 15, 2020 at 09:44 PM | Permalink


One of the best articles I've red in a while

Posted by: gymnasiummalmsey | Aug 24, 2020 9:27:38 AM

@anonymous: I see, instead of answering what was actually written, you can read Prof. Magliocca's mind. Or more likely, you and the aptly named greatdisappointment have a political narrative to support, and you construct a straw man for that rather than have anything meaningful to say about what was actually written. Not too surprising that your understanding of history seems to be distorted by your ideological bent, which seems to be exactly what you are accusing Prof. Magliocca of doing.

Posted by: MGould | Aug 19, 2020 4:11:01 PM


It takes an amazing amount of selective attention and truly, willful blindness, to suggest that these public memorials were just to remember veterans. We have actual records of the speeches that were made at the dedication of these memorials. To elide the fact that these statues were put up as symbols of white supremacy by saying oh "were some of the speeches at dedications super racist?" as if that doesn't actually tell you the thinking and the *purpose* of the statues is not just ignorant, but willfully blind. You are suggesting that the reasons the actual builders of the statues gave, at the time they built them, are not as accurate as your faux-historical gloss on what they might mean. The fact that so many people are chiming in in the comments just goes to show how dedicated people are to gloss over the racist history of this country.

Posted by: anonandoff | Aug 19, 2020 10:47:21 AM

I strongly agree with secret admirer, theRealAnonymous, and—as usual—thegreatdisappointment. Although this post is a relatively minor example, the legal academy has clearly decided to allow partisanship to (almost always) trump intellectual honesty. Any half-baked idea that adequately supports the preferred narrative is safe, regardless of how poorly evidenced or thought out, whereas even well-researched argument and theory that runs counter is professional suicide. It’s sufficiently dangerous to merely not agree heartily enough with whatever woke project occupies the moment these days. Little wonder why the public holds astonishingly little respect for our institutions; the stench of rot is unmistakable.

Posted by: YourQuietColleague | Aug 19, 2020 9:21:24 AM

@MGould: That is exactly the message that the first two sentences of the first paragraph intend to convey. And then the third sentence tries to set things up to suggest that Ford's signing of the resolution is an expression of white supremacy. Pretty disgusting but sadly par for the course in legal academia.

Beware @thegreatdisappointment, if you keep departing from the party line you will soon be labeled a white supremacist. Game over.

Posted by: theRealAnonymous | Aug 18, 2020 10:32:09 PM

@disappointment: Perhaps next time you comment here, you could respond to something actually said in the original post. He didn't bother answering your inane questions because he never made the argument that "..they didn't build the statues until forty years after the war, so clearly it wasn't about remembering veterans." Maybe take the straw man nonsense somewhere else.

Posted by: MGould | Aug 18, 2020 8:52:00 PM

Wouldn't it be nice if more folks were actually looking at facts before making empty assertions that just seek to elicit a pavlovian response? Thanks for bringing some context to the table @thegreatdisappointment. I wonder what legal history classes look like nowadays.

Posted by: theRealAnonymous | Aug 17, 2020 5:46:25 PM

@thegreatdisappointment -- thanks for the useful perspective, which you've offered on numerous posts here and elsewhere. I wondered why I was resisting the questionable substance and tenor of this and other posts, and your explanation--again both here and elsewhere--lays bare the intellectual half-truths and manipulation that have become so prominent in the past few months. The academy is letting the country down, and we will pay for it later with a loss of credibility when it matters. Please keep up the good work, remain cool-headed and objective, and know that "serious-minded, educated adults" are following your commentary with great interest and appreciation.

Posted by: secret admirer | Aug 17, 2020 8:15:16 AM

Interestingly, secession is now "an American value" according to Slate.


I'm going to check your Twitter account for the next week, waiting to see you denounce this article (and book) as seditious and treasonous.

Posted by: thegreatdisappointment | Aug 16, 2020 10:53:36 PM

Imagine being Magliocca and having a dead man live rent-free in your head so that you get mad because over 100 years after the dead guy died, congress passed a symbolic act honoring the dead guy's character and his efforts to promote unity after the war.

Posted by: venividivici | Aug 16, 2020 9:32:40 AM

Interesting. Yet, when reading the whole speech or remarks of president ford, It is worth to mention, that he was dedicated to reconciliation in the post civil war era. I quote:

" In 1865, Robert E. Lee wrote to a former Confederate soldier concerning his signing the Oath of Allegiance, and I quote:

"This war, being at an end, the Southern States having laid down their arms, and the questions at issue between them and the Northern States having been decided, I believe it to be the duty of everyone to unite in the restoration of the country and the reestablishment of peace and harmony."

End of quotation:

So, he wasn't bearing bitterness and desire for accountability, but rather, reconciliation and unity.

By the way, I have come across many cites, suggesting that he was against slavery, and in favor of abolishing of slavery.

He is portrayed not so correctly typically by the way.





Posted by: El roam | Aug 16, 2020 5:56:46 AM

Actually, I don't want to drag this out, by waiting for answers.

The answer to my first question is that they weren't going to pay for the statues with anything in 1866, because the South was absolutely destroyed economically. Less than ten years later, in 1873, a major depression hit the United States and Europe that lasted until 1877.

So you have southern states struggling to rebuild from a devastating war, under military government, and then a financial panic hits. And then twenty years later, in 1893, just as the south is *starting* to emerge from the devastation of the 1860s and 1870s, *another* financial panic hits the United States, and lasts until 1897.

Finally, at the turn of the 20th century, the south emerges economically from the devastation of the second half of the nineteenth century. At this point you begin to see prosperous local southern governments that *finally* have the money to invest in beautification efforts.

As a result, do you know what else you see begin to pop up around the south between 1900 and 1920? Town fountains, town recreation centers, town memorials, etc.

So that's one strand...in the early 20th century, you have the southern states begin to emerge economically from a terrible war, military government, and two major economic depressions--all within the span of 40 years.

What else begins happening in the late nineteenth century and early 20th century? Civil War veterans begin to die and the war begins to move out of living memory. There is plenty of research on public history that (if you took the time to read) would tell you that public commemorative statuary comes when two things happen: when there is money to spend on it, and when the event begins to move out of living memory.

Consider World War 2. The war ended in 1945. The country did not begin building a memorial to all who served until 2001--the same amount of time that passed between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the statues being built. What was happening in the late 1990s and early 2000s? There was a wave of public WW2 remembrance because the veterans were dying off and the war was moving out of living memory.

So, in the early 20th century, you have the south emerging into moderate economic prosperity and the veterans dying off--two things that sociology research tells us lead to public memorials.

Were some of the speeches at dedications super racist? Yes. Now, we can discuss the propriety of statues to southern veterans, but please, can we discuss it with at least a nod towards intellectual honesty? To say, "Well, they didn't build the statues until forty years after the war, so clearly it wasn't about remembering veterans" is so false on its face and historically illiterate I just have trouble believing that serious-minded, educated adults make this argument.

And as a result, truly, I lose all respect for the position.

Posted by: thegreatdisappointment | Aug 16, 2020 2:12:50 AM

What were they going to pay for the statues with in...say...1866?

Posted by: thegreatdisappointment | Aug 16, 2020 1:51:00 AM

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